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The robust French attitude towards local democracy

Hundreds of French mayors have left their posts after complaining of stress, threats and assaults over the past two years.

About 13,000 mayors of towns and villages have been threatened and 2,000 physically assaulted during the same period. The figures emerged from a survey as the association of French mayors gathered this week to review what David Lisnard, their leader, has described as a “major civic crisis” afflicting local government.

A very French attitude. They put up with the most appalling micromanagement from the political and bureaucratic classes, ameliorated only by once every generation or two rising up and slaughtering the lot of ’em.

The British idea was always the other way around, historically at least. We wouldn’t kill them and they’d not, except at the most high altitude level, try to rule us. Before 1914, the average British experience of the State was the postman.

Our rulers have decided to change that deal in more recent times. Perhaps we should also change our side of it?

18 thoughts on “The robust French attitude towards local democracy”

  1. We did change it. Notice that Downing Street is not publicly accessible? It was once. And that our leaders are surrounded by armed guards? Give it a decade or two and an ordinary MP won’t be able to walk the streets without being lynched by their voters.

  2. WW1 was when the rot started I think – the Establishment got more power over the people and decided that they liked it; WW2 just solidified it.

    It’s been downhill ever since.

  3. “Before 1914 it was more than just the postman. There were the police. And the justice system.”

    Only if you were a criminal scumbag.

  4. Bloke in North Dorset

    UKIP and Brexit were the first major signs of rebellion. The democratic process took some wind out of the rebels’ sails, but if the elite don’t learn the lessons of Brexit and history in general rebellions could become more violent.

    As our modern history lecturer pointed out on an Army course I attended, the reason we didn’t have a revolution in 1848, along with the rest of Europe, was that our elites were wise enough to allow just enough change to keep their heads attached to their shoulders whilst still maintaining their elite positions.

  5. Here in the States, I believe the biggest reason we are so bitterly divided is that the Gov’t is trying to run our lives more & more. We got along better when you made your own decisions & I did too. But they’ll use any excuse – climate change, China virus, Equity, transphobia – to meddle.

  6. My experience of living in France, I found dealing with the various facets of the State reasonably pleasant. OK, as Tim says, there’s ” appalling micromanagement from the political and bureaucratic classes” but the people you’re actually interacting with behave like they’re one of us rather than one of them. That it’s as much an impediment to them as it is to the public. So they”ll go out of their way to steer you through it. The police. OK they’re armed & look a lot more professional than the scruffy slovenly Brit mob. Because I was living close to the Channel ports I’d get regularly stopped in the early hours. They’re looking for immigrant smugglers. And that’s all they were interested in. No car full of swarthy foreigners – “Bon nuit, au revoire.” Take 30 seconds. Nothing like the arrogant ‘we have the power to make you suffer’ attitude of the Filth. They stop you, they go looking for something to nick you for. “Where’ve you been? Where you going? What you got in the boot?” The use of “Sir” as an insult. Whilst they’re checking lights & tyres. OK, I’d give the Paris CRS a wide berth. But one’s never going to get involved with them unless you’re intending to start a street war.
    The French local mayors tend to be of the Bjorn’s beer variety. So maybe the threats & assaults aren’t coming from Bjorn’s drinking partners.

  7. I used to regularly see the mayor of our commune in Der Klene Ooker (bar/estamminet – translates from flamand as either ‘the little corner’ or ‘la pissoire’ – take your pick) He seemed to regard himself as on our side against Departement. Who in turn stand between their people & the occupying power in Paris.

  8. “in 1381 during the Great Uprising, the abbey was sacked and looted again. This time, the prior was executed; his severed head was placed on a pike in the Great Market”

    WKPD: Bury St Edmunds. The King and Parliament might not bother you much but the “princes of the church” could be local tyrants.

  9. “Before 1914, the average British experience of the State was the postman” A bit sentimental surely. Nobody got married or wrote wills? Nobody used roads or bridges? Nobody went to state schools? Hell they even completed census forms.

    Acts of Parliament that mattered to many included railway acts, enclosure acts, factory acts, etc, etc. Plus the gaugers putting up the cost of your beer.

  10. @ jgh
    13,000 French mayors have been threatened. That is about a third of them.
    Who’s making the threats? Not their constituents in all cases, I bet.

  11. This is the general decline in civility, accelerated by Covid. When you’re holding your parish council meetings over Zoom, people are less cordial. (Famously so, in one parish in Cheshire.) Same logic applies to road rage.

    Bring back face-to-face meetings and people will be polite once more.

  12. @BiND

    ‘if the elite don’t learn the lessons of Brexit and history in general rebellions could become more violent.’

    They’ve learned the lesson alright, but I doubt the result will be more violent revolutions.

  13. Jgh

    A French mayor has a LOT more power than a parish Councillor. A Councillor in the UK can’t even get potholes repaired

  14. Dio: yeah, tell me. I’ve been trying to get a flight of steps repaired for four years. Highways says it’s Footpaths. Footpaths says it’s Drains. Drains never reply. If I was 30 years younger, I’d do it myself.

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